Saturday, September 10, 2011

Selfridge Airmen Prepare for Afghanistan Deployment

An A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft fires its primary weapon, a GAU 30mm Gatling gun, during a training flight. The aircraft is flown by the 107th Fighter Squadron, part of the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. The Selfridge-based A-10 unit is preparing to deploy approximately 300 Citizen-Airmen to Afghanistan. (USAF Photo by MSgt. Terry Atwell)

by TSgt. Dan Heaton
127th Wing Public Affairs

9/9/2011 - SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- Approximately 300 Airmen of the Michigan Air National Guard will report to active duty in September for deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The group of 127th Wing Airmen from Selfridge Air National Guard Base will include pilots, crew members, maintenance technicians and support personnel who are slated to serve four to six month tours of duty in Afghanistan. The Selfridge Airmen will be part of a unit flying the A-10 Thunderbolt II, an air-to-ground attack aircraft, perhaps better known as the "Warthog."

While the September deployment is the largest single movement of personnel for the Air National Guard at Selfridge in several years, more than 200 Airmen from the base have been deployed so far this year alone. Last week, as one example, some two dozen construction specialists from the 127th Wing returned home from a six-month deployment in Afghanistan. Currently, one of the wing's KC-135 Stratotankers is deployed to southern Europe in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya.

"Michigan's Hometown Air Force is headed out to support the Soldiers and Marines on the ground in Afghanistan who may need top cover as they encounter the enemy," said Col. Leonard Isabelle, 127th Operations Group commander, referring to the close-air support mission the A-10 is so well known for. "We are fully trained and have proven we're ready to go whenever called."

The 127th Wing's fleet of A-10s and the Airmen who operate them were only recently designated operationally capable in June. The unit had originally been scheduled for deployment in spring 2012, but that timetable was moved up over the summer.

"The men and women of the 127th Maintenance Group and the 127th Operations Group have done a marvelous job rising to the challenge and the milestone we passed on June 30 proves they have what it takes to operated this weapon system, as they are now called to the fight," said Col. Gregory S. Holzhei, 127th Maintenance Group commander. The group had been in conversion for the past 18 months since the 2005 BRAC mandated trading the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft for the A-10.

A large percentage of those deploying are traditional status guardsmen, meaning they still have jobs in the local community, but volunteer their time and service in support of the nation's Air Force, when called.

"We know when we deploy like this, it's not just our military families who experience a loss. Our community corporations, organizations, and small businesses also carry the burden of these patriotic men and women serving so far away. We couldn't do this mission without the continued support of our communities," said Col. Michael Thomas, 127th Wing commander.

This tasking marks the first deployment of the 107th Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the "Red Devils," with the A-10 Thunderbolt II weapon system. For more than a decade, the 107th FS has been tasked routinely in support of overseas contingencies:
· 1997 to Kuwait for Operation Sothern Watch
· 1999 to Incirlik, Turkey, in support of Operation Northern Watch
· 2001 to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch Spring 2003 to Incirlik, Turkey, in support of Operation Northern Watch -- which marked the first time since World War II the unit dropped weapons (over Iraq)
· 2004 for Operation Iraqi Freedom as the first USAF F-16 unit based in Iraq, at Kirkuk Air Base (the unit participated in the Battle for Fallujah)
· 2007 for Operation Iraqi Freedom based at Balad Air Base

The 107th FS is one of the oldest flying units in the Air Force, tracing its history back to the World War I era.

The 127th Wing has deployed numerous units and personnel on a smaller scale, but almost continuously over the past decade, including personnel from the wing's Security Forces, Civil Engineers, Communications, Force Support and Logistics squadrons. The wing's KC-135 air refuelers have been deployed almost continuously since completing their transition from flying C-130 Hercules aircraft in 2009. Most recently, that unit completed a two-week trip in July in which the 171st Air Refueling Squadron supported the casualty evacuation mission out of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan; the tankers also have supported NATO missions over Libya and were deployed for four weeks to Guam, as well as other assignments.

In all, since September 11, 2001, the 127th Wing has supported deployment taskings with roughly 3,800 personnel.

"As our nation pauses to remember the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it is important to remember that the events of that day continue to impact our service personnel and so many others in public service," Thomas said. "The people of Michigan can be rightly proud of the work their sons and daughters are doing and continue to do not only here at Selfridge but while forward deployed to where ever their country needs them."

Airmen from the 127th Maintenance Group perform a series of pre-flight checks on an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Maintainers, pilots and other personnel from Selfridge are preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by John S. Swanson)


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